ON MENTAL WELLNESS: Mental Capacity Gone Missing; How Would You Know?. Category: Columns from The Berkeley Daily Planet

2022-07-02 07:12:36 By : Mr. XIKOU CULTURE

"Anosognosia," is a term used to describe the absence of the basic insight that you are ill, and it is a common symptom of schizophrenia in many but not all of those afflicted. This lack of awareness goes undetected to the person who is suffering from it even though others around the ill person are probably very aware of it. I don't suffer from anosognosia except when I've slipped significantly into psychosis. I must always remain vigilant to prevent this. However, I am still subject to other insights going missing, insights for which I haven't done as many "mental drills" to reinforce. 

(In this week’s piece, I’m speaking a lot about intangibles. So, if this reading has you lost, probably you are not alone.) 

Sometimes, basic insight isn't missing, but I might suffer from a generalized depleted mental capacity, and many things can cause this. 

Additionally, there are different types of mental capacity. The ability to multitask, let’s say, working for Starbuck’s for example, is a very different capacity compared to being able to tune out our surroundings and create a laser-like focus on a project, such as with the copyediting I’m doing on my own work at this moment. 

Strong emotions can reduce mental capacity. Sometimes we lose mental capacity when others are harassing us too much. Too much television can temporarily reduce mental capacity because of all the strobe-like graphics, scene changes, and let's not forget, dumb content. And let's not forget just getting tired and having mental fatigue as a cause of depletion. 

I've taken medications to deal with panic attacks. Yet, this morning I had the thought of reinstalling something I've arrived at in my past, that I call, "The Okay Indicator." This is not to say I'm the only person who has invented this. I have no doubt that many other meditation and mindfulness practitioners have discovered the very same tool. To be able to have and use this tool, internally focused insight is prerequisite. 

To elaborate on "The Okay Indicator," it is the installed perception that I'm okay. Very simple. Yet it takes some focus. You can't do it if your thinking is jumbled, if your mind is taken over by extreme upset, or if your mind is massively dulled by medication or by some other substance. 

If you forget that this tool has been "preinstalled," and is available for use, the tool doesn't do you any good. It is as though you had an electric drill, but you have failed to pick up the drill, to put a drill bit into it, and use it. Tools usually don't use themselves; the operator must use them. If insight has gone absent, you might completely forget that you can use an ability you once used. 

Some have argued that psych medications block the insight needed to resolve the causes of one's psychiatric condition. On the contrary: without meds, the brain of a psychotic person doesn't work, and that will block basic insight far more than a dulling effect of medication. Many antipsychotics can be maneuvered around in the quest to gain insight. For me, and don’t consider this to be medical advice, an old antidepressant and/or tranquilizer, Trazodone, was the worst thing that I've ever taken. It had me falling asleep at the wheel of my car and it had me so numbed out that any shred of awareness was fogged out of existence. And Trazodone isn't an antipsychotic. Different medications work differently for one person versus another. But if psychotic, usually taking an antipsychotic, if it is prescribed, is basic wisdom. 

If a mental capacity is missing, often you won’t be aware of the fact because your insight of not having the capacity went out along with the absent capacity. When capacity returns, if it does, you could wonder, "What happened?" 

Jack Bragen is a writer who lives in Martinez. He is author of "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual."

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